Wellington Phoenix 1, Perth Glory 0
Eden Park, Auckland, February 2 2013
“WE’RE HERE TO WATCH THE FOOTBALL!
WE’RE HERE TO WATCH THE FOOTBALL!”
Now THERE’S a Yellow Fever chant I can write about in glowing terms. It came as a bunch of noob Aucklanders tried to start a Mexican wave at yesterday’s Phoenix sojourn into JAFAtown. Can you imagine a Mexican wave at Old Trafford or the Nou Camp? They are for drunk cricket fans during test matches and even then they are tedious at best. Yet another reason why Auckland will never be a football town. Admittedly the game didn’t offer a lot for those with short attention spans, particularly in the first half. As always with the ‘Nix, it was still a great day out though.
With just the one goal, this was a bottom of the table clash that looked like one most of the time. Although either side could easily have won, Perth wasted several golden opportunities and the Phoenix deserved their three points. Jeremy Brockie’s winning goal was beautifully taken and having scored that they proceeded to grind it out with gritty defence.
The fact that it wasn’t pretty but it was effective must have been a slap in the face for owner Gareth Morgan. He had been criticising fans for daring to demand results, calling them pathetic for having no patience with a club that to everyone’s bewilderment he seems to think is transitioning to Total Football. Well, we are yet to see much evidence of it and with the players they have at their disposal, sadly or not, yesterday showed that the traditional English style of punt, hope, score and park the bus is still the most effective way to win games.
Eden Park is too big for New Zealand football, 11,566 looked pretty lost in its 50,000 seats, but it’s still a stadium that on a good day is a great place to watch sport. The proximity to the pitch is excellent for a big ground and the atmosphere, whilst not as good as it was before they demolished the old North Stand, is still one of the best in the country – the square shape seems to reflect crowd noise back at you better than modern round designs like the Cake Tin.
The suburban setting attracts a lot of criticism but it provides a lovely backdrop. Walking to and from the ground from Dominion Road or Kingsland through Auckland’s delightful old wooden villas gives it a slightly traditional English football feel as if you are heading to Arsenal or Fulham through the rows of terraced housing.
It was great to see Yellow Fever in fine voice, hundreds having made the trip up from Wellington for the game. However with over 20,000 in attendance for the previous Eden Park Phoenix fixture, this year’s crowd was well down. This reflects the drop in interest for the Phoenix across the whole country including Wellington. Football crowds in New Zealand are fickle at the best of times. The die-hard core 6,000 or so fans will come every week no matter what but the kind of people who start Mexican waves will only come when they feel like it so you have to do something to make them feel like it.
Giving them confidence they’ll see a win is surely more a deciding factor for them, than what style of football you play. The average kiwi punter wouldn’t know Total Football if Johan Cruyff dribbled a ball across their dinner table. What they want to come out and pay good money to see is a winning team and yesterday’s performance by the Phoenix showed a clear pathway to achieving it.
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.